Four Decades On

Con­certed ef­forts needed to keep Sino­u. S. re­la­tions on track

Beijing Review - - WORLD - By Wen Qing

In 1972, at the J in­jiang Ho­tel in down­town Shang­hai, the Shang­hai Com­mu­niqué was signed by Chi­nese Pre­mier Zhou En­lai and U. S. Pres­i­dent Richard Nixon, es­tab­lish­ing the frame­work for the nor­mal­iza­tion of bi­lat­eral re­la­tions, which would be re­al­ized on Jan­uary 1, 1979, with the Joint Com­mu­niqué on the Estab­lish­ment of Diplo­matic Re­la­tions Be­tween the Peo­ple’s Repub­lic of China and the United States of Amer­ica.

Cur­rently, China-u.s. ties are one of the most im­por­tant bi­lat­eral re­la­tion­ships in the world. Sound Sino-u.s. re­la­tions are in line with the fun­da­men­tal in­ter­ests of the two peo­ples and the broad-based ex­pec­ta­tions of the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity, Chi­nese Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping told U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump dur­ing their meet­ing in Buenos Aires, Ar­gentina, on De­cem­ber 1, 2018.

Nev­er­the­less, op­por­tu­ni­ties and chal­lenges fac­ing bi­lat­eral re­la­tions are both un­prece­dented against the back­drop of the on­go­ing trade con­flict be­tween the two largest economies in the world.

Mixed sig­nals

Ac­cord­ing to Diao Daming, an as­so­ci­ate pro­fes­sor on Sino- U. S. re­la­tions at the Ren­min Uni­ver­sity of China, Washington has been de­liv­er­ing very noisy sig­nals to Bei­jing, which have rarely been seen in his­tory and is wor­ri­some. He made the re­marks at a sym­po­sium mark­ing the 40th an­niver­sary of China-u.s. diplo­matic re­la­tions at the Jin­jiang Ho­tel in De­cem­ber 2018.

“It seemed that Trump wanted to solve the is­sue of trade deficit to boost the econ­omy, but the United States sent mes­sages that it in­tended to push China into a cor­ner to com­press its strate­gic space,” Diao said. “Maybe Washington it­self does not know what it wants at the mo­ment.”

Like Diao, many par­tic­i­pants ex­pressed con­cerns about the turn in U.S. pol­icy to­ward China.

In the 1970s and 80s, China and the United States col­lab­o­rated against the Soviet Union and af­ter the Cold War, the two coun­tries de­vel­oped ex­ten­sive in­ter­de­pen­dence in the eco­nomic field, Zhou Wen­zhong, former Chi­nese Am­bas­sador to the United States, said.

Top Chi­nese lead­ers have con­sis­tently re­it­er­ated the im­por­tance of close bi­lat­eral ties dur­ing the past decades. In 2011, the two coun­tries agreed to build a co­op­er­a­tive part­ner­ship based on mu­tual re­spect and mu­tual ben­e­fit. Xi’s pro­posal to build a new type of ma­jor-coun­try re­la­tion­ship be­tween China and the United States won Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s back­ing.

How­ever, af­ter tak­ing of­fice in 2017, Trump steered an abrupt pol­icy change. His ad­min­is­tra­tion named China as a strate­gic com­peti­tor and ri­val power, which her­alded back to be­fore 1972. Un­cer­tainty was very ob­vi­ous in the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s pol­icy to­ward China, Zhou said.

Xi and Trump agreed in Buenos Aires not to im­pose new ad­di­tional tar­iffs and to step up ne­go­ti­a­tions be­tween the eco­nomic teams of the two sides to­ward the re­moval of all ad­di­tional tar­iffs and reach­ing a con­crete agree­ment that would lead to win-win re­sults.

In spite of this, some con­tra­dic­tory de­vel­op­ments showed that the U.S. pres­i­dent and his key of­fi­cials have not reached con­sen­sus on a pol­icy to­ward China, with dis­agree­ment abun­dantly clear, Zhou said. “Thus, the Chi­nese feel con­fused when deal­ing with diplo­matic is­sues with the United States be­cause we do not know who is at the helm in Washington.”

Mu­tual con­ces­sions

“We hope bi­lat­eral ties get back on track and the United States again views China as a part­ner rather than a ri­val power,” Zhou said. Ac­cord­ing to him, the past four decades proved that co­op­er­a­tion brings ben­e­fits to both sides, while con­fronta­tion could be dam­ag­ing.

Since China and the United States have dif­fer­ent po­lit­i­cal and so­cial sys­tems, it is nor­mal that they have di­ver­gence on some is­sues. The trade deficit should be tack­led through bi­lat­eral ne­go­ti­a­tions, but a trade war should never be re­sorted to as it does harm to both sides. For ex­am­ple, Gen­eral Mo­tors, one of the largest au­tomak­ers in the United States, was af­fected by the ad­di­tional tar­iffs im­posed by the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion on China- ori­gin im­ports, since many of its cars pro­duced in China were sub­ject to the re­stric­tive mea­sures.

In Oc­to­ber 2018, the In­ter­na­tional Mon­e­tary Fund low­ered its fore­cast for world eco­nomic growth for 2018 and 2019, cit­ing in­creas­ing trade ten­sions as the main threat to the world econ­omy. If the si­t­u­a­tion con­tin­ues, the U.S. econ­omy will also be af­fected.

“Bi­lat­eral prob­lems need to be re­solved, but this can­not be done through com­plete con­ces­sion by the Chi­nese side or com­plete vic­tory by the United States. Both sides must com­pro­mise and con­cede,” Yang Yi, former Direc­tor of the Strate­gic Stud­ies In­sti­tute with the Na­tional De­fense Uni­ver­sity of the Peo­ple’s Lib­er­a­tion Army, said.

The United States is in an of­fen­sive pos­ture, while China is de­fen­sive in bi­lat­eral re­la­tions at the mo­ment. The U.S. anx­i­ety about China’s rapid de­vel­op­ment led to its ex­treme pres­sure on China, se­verely hurt­ing bi­lat­eral re­la­tions, Yang said. “The two coun­tries should have an in­clu­sive men­tal­ity to­ward each other and should not pur­sue com­plete vic­tory or ab­so­lute su­pe­ri­or­ity,” he added.

Ac­cord­ing to Dou­glas Paal, Vice Pres­i­dent for Stud­ies of the Carnegie En­dow­ment for In­ter­na­tional Peace, the post-cold War, unipo­lar world, where the United States is the most dom­i­nant coun­try and oth­ers are much less a fac­tor, has changed, but there’s great dis­or­der and dis­ar­ray in the global power struc­ture. The

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